A college student seeking guidance came into my office two weeks ago to discuss Judaism. After about an hour of talking he looked at me and asked, “Rabbi when do you have time to find a moment to yourself to pray.” It’s funny that he asks that because I often joke about the irony that rabbis “work” on Shabbat and we preach to others not to. However, I think he was certainly onto something and as we all go into the Holiday season it is important to think about our own prayer and the prayers of those around us.
My dear professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Dr. Neil Gillman, once said to my class that no matter how long the services lasts, if you can achieve two solid minutes of Kavannah (deep intention) then you have been successful. We will be in our pews or pulpits over the next two weeks, struggling to find meaning or provide meaning, and I think most of us will be lost throughout. We will look at friends to talk, maybe flip through the pages or whatever the synagogue hands out, but I hope we can all find those two minutes. Even for the rabbis the words on the page or small interludes we say might at times feel apathetic, but I hope we too can find two minutes to make sure we got something significant out of services.
That college student helped this rabbi stop viewing the rabbinate as a job for just a moment and once again understand that rabbis need to search for God as well. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote; “Prayer is a way to master what is inferior in us, to discern between the signal and the trivial, between the vital and the futile, by taking counsel with what we know about the will of God, by seeing our fate in proportion to God.” May this Rosh Hashanah be a time that we are all able to pray. A time congregants understand that their rabbi is better with space to reach God and for rabbis to display their search openly for their community to witness.
Shana Tova U’Metukah